Southern New Jersey races: Don’t co-opt white supremacist and sexist slogans for your campaign this election cycle

Andy Kim, one of us

New Jersey was one of several key races in the election this year. As a South Jersey native who lives in districts that tout all spectrums of Republicans – from Trumpsters who worship the ground he walks to moderates who don’t “always” agree with his positions, I had some advice:  Stop co-opting his white supremacist slogans and jargon.

In the 4thDistrict, Representative Tom MacArthur was in a hotly contested election battle with Democratic candidate Andy Kim; Kim, the son of South Korean immigrants and a former national security aide to President Barack Obama, had to actively prove he is part of the South Jersey club, in the face of not so covert racism that hint that he isn’t “part of the club” from the New Jersey Republican Party who described him as “Real Fishy’ – the text printed in a typeface called Chop Suey-next to a photo of dead fish on ice.” While MacArthur dismissed the ads as race-baiting, Republican super pac ads warned voters that Kim is “not one of us.”

From a state that boasts immigrant cultures, promotes Liberty State Park and Ellis Island as proudly located in New Jersey (yes, it is), Kim is as much “us” as Hoboken native, Frank Sinatra.

In NJ’s 11thdistrict, Republican Candidate Jay Webber fell behind his opponent, Navy Veteran and Federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill who hoped to win Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s seat after his retirement this year. In desperate form, Webber attacked Sherrill as “the dark, fire-breathing radical in this race.” Webber conveniently neglected his own open support for Trump and his legislation, even as the president’s tax bill is set to actively harm New Jersey residents because it curtailed their ability to deduct state and local taxes. Meanwhile, Rep. Leonard Lance fiercely defended his seat in the 11thdistrict, against Democratic candidateTom Malinowski, who raised Lance’s—and really, most NJ Republicans can be applied to this—relationship with the Very Unpopular President.

A commonality to the Southern New Jersey races that many Republican candidates need to be wary of is the massive unpopularity of the president to New Jersey voters. Co-opting Trump’s sexist, homophobic, and overtly racist dogma isn’t going to be your ticket to winning this year.

Here’s an example. As I was determined to vote early in my district — New Jersey’s 4thDistrict, where Republican incumbent Chris Smith defended his seat against Democratic Candidate Josh Welles — I had the misfortune of reading my unopposed Mayoral candidate Kenneth Palmer, and two city councilman’s, campaign slogan: Manchester First.

The campaign slogan harkens back to the “America First” political slogan, used by isolationists in pushing anti-Semitic programs in the 20thcentury, with Trump himself adopting the phrase. Aviator Charles Lindbergh most famously promoted “America First” policy, and David Duke, former Klan Leader, happily endorsed Trump’s use of the phrase.

I hope that the mayoral candidate did not take the meaning of his campaign slogan from the Trump administration; given the politics of the small township I wouldn’t be surprised. I have had to cross many a stop sign with Info Wars and Hillary for Prison 2016 bumper stickers forManchester First to be a coincidence. Given that New Jersey ranks third for most anti-Semitic incidents, a slogan promoting just the kind of anti-Semitism that has taken hold of the state would be exactly what a largely Trumptown mayor meant to convey.

Mr. Mayor, being unopposed does not give you the right to pander to the hate growing in the South Jersey region, even if it was not what you meant to convey. You may have won now, but the anti-Trump sentiment is growing, even in comfortably red districts of the Garden State, and you shouldn’t stay comfortable when in four years that campaign tag comes back to haunt you.

Meanwhile, as of Sunday, November 11, 2018, New Jerseyans elected Democratic candidates Andy Kim; Mikie Sherrill; and Tom Malinowski to the United States House of Representatives. Feeling blue? Oh yeah.

Manchester, New Jersey, sample ballot

 

(Photo Credit 1: Huffington Post / AP) (Photo Credit 2: Author’s photo)

 

 

A proper response to those calling the Women’s March a mob


I’m proud of the number of women that showed up in defense of Dr. Ford. I’m proud to have had some part of their protest on the steps of the Supreme Court. I’m proud that the Women’s March is still fighting for survivors. However, I would like to offer my opinion on what they should have responded when Trump called them “the mob.”

I understand the attempt to tamper the speeches of men who would vilify them for committing acts of disobedience, for risking arrest and putting their bodies on the line. But, to the eyes of the oppositional parties and hard-right/alt-rights that have pushed their contempt of these women as mobs, as violent and dangerous, there is no way of appealing to their common sense.

There is no point in responding in long soliloquys about the beauty of the movement or the struggles that each woman faces because of the dangers of the Trump administration. The email sent to me ends touchingly, “This is who we are, who you are, Nichole: Moms, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, sisters. We’re regular women, survivors and allies from cities and suburbs, and rural areas—who believe in our country, and are determined to make it better”. It’s supposed to better ground the public’s understanding about who these angry women are and what they’re trying to accomplish. They’re simply trying to protect themselves and empower the women around them. That won’t work.

Here’s my proper response to the Trump administration and all the Republicans who shake their heads and declaim that the Women’s March is violent, unruly, that women are hysterical, and that we should continue towards civility when protesting the dismantlement of our rights: f*ck you.

Let me say that once again, clearly. F*ck you.

We don’t have to respond to an egotistical Twitter happy rapist and rape apologist. We don’t have to respond to the smiling Southern gentlemen shtick while he demands cuts to entitlements that we’ve paid into for years. We shouldn’t respond to the calls about our violent tactics while children have been separated from their parents, put into cages, abused and forcibly injected with psychotropic drugs. We should not and cannot legitimize administrations that consider erasing the transgender community while dismissing domestic violence as a legitimate reason for seeking asylum in the United States, and the list goes on and on. The damage heaped upon women, minorities, youth, the LGTBQ communities every group population in this country that isn’t white men and privileged white women, is violence.

Where’s your explanation for the violent and dangerous mobs of men in government destroying the lives of so many?

Civility and the call for civility is dead. Don’t legitimize men who have only treated us with violence and death. Rage, be angry, and continue the fight. Don’t waste energy with emailing a response to your supporters, and certainly not your opponents, explaining who you really are. Your supporters already know, they already applaud you. Your opponents couldn’t care less.

 

(Photo Credit: ABC News)

People are fleeing their homes and seeking asylum in the US: Now is the time to open the borders!


A migrant caravan heading to the United States of people seeking asylum was halted at the border between Guatemala and Mexico on Friday. Fleeing violence and economic insecurity, and seeking the possibility of returning to the United States to reunite with loved ones, the numbers swelled to over 5,000 people as they marched towards the Mexican town of Tapachula. Despite efforts to stop them at the Mexican border, asylum seekers marched to the bridge crossing the Suchiate River, then moving through a park in the border city of Ciudad Hildago to bypass the slow process of entering Mexico legally. Some crossed the river on rafts, by swimming/wading through the river in full view of Mexican police blockading the bridge; others paid locals to ferry them across the river. They did not face detention upon reaching the Mexican bank.

Though they faced threats from the United States, their final intended destination, locals in Guatemala and Mexico encouraged those traveling with applause, cheers, and donations of food and clothing. A resident of the neighborhood of Lorenzo, Maria Teresa Orellana, handed out free sandals to migrants as they passed. “It’s solidarity. They’re our brothers,” she said.

Mexican workers handed food and bottled waters to migrants on the bridge, while a doctor gave medical attention to a woman who was fearful that her son was running a fever. Guatemalan locals also donated food and water to travelers as well. Crowds on the Mexican side of the river cheered the caravan, shouting, “Venganse!”-Come on in! 

7,233 immigrants had registered over the past three days at a shelter at Ciudad Hidalgo. Gerardo Hernandez, head of the local government’s emergency services, has said that his agency has been asked to help provide the immigrants with food and shelter. Sunday night, one of the group’s organizer, Rodrigo Aveja, reported that the caravan included at least 5,600 people.

On October 13, an estimated 3,000 migrants marched out of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Their goal was to walk through Guatemala and Mexico to the United States. Though their numbers have ebbed and flowed, on Sunday the caravan was at its largest, with migrants determined to cross the US-Mexico border. “We are going to get to the border of the U.S. I am not going to stop. I don’t care if I die,” said Luis Puerto, 39, of Colon, Honduras.

Several key facts about life in Central American have compelled many of the migrants to risk everything to cross the border into the United States:

  1. High Crime and Homicide Rates

Fear drives many migrants to leave their home, many coming from El Salvador and Honduras. With 60 murders per 100,000 in 2017, El Salvador was considered the deadliest place in the world of countries not at war. Last year, almost 4,000 people were killed in El Salvador. Honduras’s 2017 murder rate was 42.8 murders per 100,000 people, making it one of the world’s most dangerous places to live.

  1. Sexual and Domestic Abuse

On June 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asserted that women escaping domestic abuse were not eligible for asylum, upending decades of legal precedent and potentially violating international law. International refugee law requires signatory countries to offer protection to people who demonstrate a well-founded fear of certain kinds of severe harm in their home countries. Women who experience severe sexual or physical violence at home in countries that cannot or will not protect may qualify as members of a “particular social group” that warrants protection and previously would be eligible for asylum within the United States.

  1. Gang Violence

Central Americans are also fleeing home because of gang violence. Many are caught in the crosshairs between violent gangs and violent police.

  1. Previously Deported

Many migrants in the caravan had previously lived in the United States; many joined the migration to reunite with children or resume jobs. Some of them had returned to their home countries voluntarily, but eventually determined that there was nothing left there for them. The deportees and returnees were clear that their intentions were to cross the border against the wishes of the current administration, risking detention and deportation to be back with their loved ones again. Some were hoping to slip past border patrol officers, with no intention of applying for asylum.

While the caravan continues its way North, the Trump administration will continue to threaten military violence against women, children, and men. The military is not the answer. It is up to us civilians to answer the Caravan’s call and abolish the borders that would keep these people fleeing for their lives from entering the United States, some looking for a better life, some wanting to return to their children and their families. Now is the time to open the borders!

 

(Photo Credit 1: New York Times / Brett Grundlock) (Photo Credit 2: Washington Post / Oliver De Ros / AP)

Global attack on the Free Press: Two women who tried to weed out corruption

Viktoria Marinova

The attack on free press and journalists is not just relegated to the American Far Right. It is not just Trump screaming Fake News and denouncing any negative or scandalous headline or book that comes into the public’s purview. It is not only in the United States that mass shootings are now directed at major newspapers. Around the world, people are being emboldened to take their grudges out on journalists who are only interested in exposing the truth.

From the United States and beyond, cases of journalists under assault are a part of a larger attack on the Free Press that accompanies the rise of far right and authoritarian governments. From the United States, to the EU, to the Middle East and beyond, governments have attempted to crackdown on those writing about corruption and dictatorial politics with threats and violence. For example, US resident and columnist for the Washington Post, Jamal Kashoggi, a Saudi dissident, disappeared and is thought to have been assassinated in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul from orders of the highest levels of the Saudi royal family. Kashoggi’s high-profile death has created an international crisis, with Britain, France and Germany demanding a credible investigation into Kashoggi’s disappearance. Trump has only warned of “severe punishment” if the allegations are true, though that doesn’t seem to be stopping the large arm sales to the country from the United States, worth $110 billion.

In Europe, the rape and murder of Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova, alarmed many as it had been the third death of a journalist in the EU in the past year. Marinova was a broadcaster on TVN, where she was a presenter on a talk program called Detector. The last episode of her show covered alleged corruption and fraud involving EU funds and prominent businessmen and politicians. The two journalists invited on the program to speak, Attila Biro and Dimitar Stoyanov, had been arrested in September investigating corruption. The attack was downplayed as just a spontaneous sexual assault, but many are suspicious that the attack was politically motivated because of Marinova’s work as a journalist in a country that is extremely hostile to free press. Bulgaria is currently ranked 111 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index.

Viktoria Marinova’s death follows two other high-profile journalists murdered within the past year. Malta journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia died in an explosion after she left her home in Bidnija. Galizia was a harsh critic of the Malta government, effectively triggering an early election by publishing allegations linking the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to the Panama Papers scandal, in particular funneling money into offshore bank accounts to hide payments from Azerbaijan’s ruling family. In her blog. Galizia also targeted opposition politicians.

In Slovakia, journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Matina Kusnirova were found shot dead in their home. Kuciak was in the middle of investigating links between the Italian mafia and figures close to Slovakia’s Prime Minister, Robert Fico. Kuciak had alleged that Italian businessmen with ties to the Calabrian organized crime syndicate the ‘Ndrangheta had settled in eastern Slovakia, spending years embezzling EU funds for the region on the border with Ukraine. These men cultivated business links with senior officials, including people close to the prime minister, such as former glamour model Maria Troskova, the minister’s “chief state adviser”, and Viliam Jasan, secretary of Slovakia’s national security council. Police have stated that the attacks bear all the hallmarks of a contract killing.

In the past year, four journalists attempted to uncover corruption and greed to better their respective countries by exposing injustice. Two were men, two were women. The viciousness with which they were attacked speaks to the fear that those in power, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, have when their corruption is brought to light. Their deaths also speak to the larger movement of anti-free press sentiment and the rise of authoritarian governments across the United States and around the world.

Daphne Caruana Galizia

 

(Photo Credit 1: Guardian / Filip Dvorski / AP) (Photo Credit 2: Guardian / Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters)

Survivors Get Death Threats, Assaulters Get the Supreme Court


Two days after the controversial committee hearing, and subsequent launch of an FBI investigation, I was feeling a bit hopeful. While people can joke and laugh about rape and victims across the internet and in their inner circles, to be able to face one, hear their stories and still have the audacity to dismiss them is a notion that made my blood boil. If Flake might have a conscience, I was heartened by the humanity he saw in those women.

It soon became clear that an FBI investigation was nothing more than political theater to assuage Republican holdouts and embolden Democratic undecideds (well, only one, really). I read hopefuls on the internet claim that the FBI would do their thing, would help bring justice; at the very least theinvestigators would announce that Kavanaugh had perjured himself during the hearing and that would warrant his immediate nomination withdrawal. I knew, sadly, that many are unwilling to investigate assault cases, and that many cases that are tried rarely end positively for the survivor. I knew that if Flake had had a change of heart, he would not have voted Kavanaugh out of committee. He would have, and could have, ended it then and there. He did not.

Then Susan Collins illustrated the hypocrisy of the privileged White woman who supposedly “supports” survivors and believed Dr. Ford, while questioning and putting holes in the memories that they have (i.e. fact that she didn’t believe the perpetrator was Kavanaugh). What good is a supporter of #MeToo when you only deride a survivor as they recount one of the most traumatic details of their life?

I didn’t watch the vote. By Tuesday I knew that it was mere theater, an act (akin to Lindsey Graham’s speech as he eschews whatever values he had during the election and vies for a job with Trump’s inner circle). People in power rarely give up their power; and those in the government are only willing to give lip service to their constituents because only the elite and the wealthy hold the puppet strings. Kavanaugh’s nomination, his record and his legacy in the Supreme Court, holds a boon that could only benefit those whose interest is in maintaining and growing their vast power and resources, even at the cost of destruction.

And Dr. Ford? The brave woman who came forward to talk about her experiences? She’s unable to go home, because of the unending death threats against her and her family. She got the unending brunt of people who accused her of lying, or distorting the truth, while others sympathized with Kavanaugh, a man whose own classmates have come forward and demanded the FBI speak with them because he was lying.

When the state isn’t there to protect you, when the state only serves the privileged, are words and marches enough?

 

(Image Credit 1: Press Democrat) (Image Credit 2: RAINN)

We really haven’t learned a thing, have we?

Every person has encountered a survivor of sexual assault, rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence. They are friends and family members, colleagues or acquaintances. More importantly, they are people with stories that illustrate pain, suffering, fear and, silence. Journalist Sheetal Dhir sums this poignantly, “I recently did a straw poll of the women in my life and realised that I know more survivors of sexual assault than I do mothers.” In some families, mine included, every woman has some experience with sexual assault and violence. It’s a reality that we cannot ignore or dismiss; the trauma is intergenerational. More importantly, it’s a fact that still makes men (especially men in power), scratch their head with confusion on what is considered acceptable behavior when interacting with women.

1 in 3 women in the US have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. For Black women, around 2 of 3 will experience sexual abuse by the age of 18. 2 of 3 incidences will go unreported (only 310 of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police), and for every 1 Black woman that reports, at least 15 do not. When they are reported, more than likely they are not taken seriously; it is a common erroneous comparison for many survivors of sexual violence.

Victim-blaming, intimidation, threat of employment termination, literaldenial of a memory of the assault happening. The rage many women felt when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave her testimony, in front of a panel of mostly white men hidden behind a woman prosecutor (for what is assumed to be a way to not make an ass of themselves in front of a sexual assault survivor in the age of the #MeToo Movement), was an acknowledgement that all women, all survivors have gone through the traumatization of their assault, and then the re-traumatization of not being believed. And for the response, the questioning of her memory, Dr. Ford gave a succinct but unbreakable response that only a professional in the field of psychology could; the neurotransmitter epinephrine, she replied, “Codes memories into the hippocampus, and so the trauma-related experience is locked there, whereas other details kind of drift.”

Memory remains clear-cut when we experience trauma. It flashes through the brain when one feels at their most vulnerable. It’s why women can remember their assault even years later when they move on. It’s why girls can remember their abuse when they were young children. It’s why Anita Hill faced a panel of 14 very skeptical white men, and was able to recount what then-nominee Clarence Thomas put her through.

The utter disbelief she endured by such men who thought that engaging in overtly sexual conversations in front of and directly to female colleagues, was not such a big deal. Considering that some of those same skeptical men were presiding over Dr. Ford’s testimony, albeit skulking behind the words of a female prosecutor, makes it more apparent that men have not learned a damn thing when it comes to sexual assault.

There’s data and research to prove why women don’t report. Psychologists, like Dr. Ford, can elaborate the fascinating science behind trauma-based memory; there are rape kits to prove it happened; confessions from the accused themselves. Mountains of evidence and personal stories from the survivors who have reported and were treated like whores and attention-seekers, and the ones that feared such a response and never made a sound. Believing the survivor is imperative, because of what they’re giving up just to come forward. We can no longer accept men in places of privilege who are given slaps on the wrists or sycophantic words of encouragement. What we need is punishment for the accused and something as simple as faith in the accuser. It won’t change everything, but it will be a start. It may even break the intergenerational chain of victimization that is passed between mothers and daughters, and teach sons that respect for women, informed consent and care for a woman’s choice, is a goddamn requirement.

Men, step up. We gave you the tools for learning at your disposal, now use them.

 

(Photo Credit 1: BBC News) (Photo Credit 2: Bill Snead / The Washington Post) (Photo Credit 3: New York Magazine)

In New Jersey, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility has a Rape Problem

Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women

Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, a small women’s prison with a population of 650 inmates, sits in Union Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey. The correctional facility houses female inmates from the age of 16 and above, boasts about providing counseling for substance abuse as well as mental health treatment, and participates in the “Puppies Behind Bars Program” which allows incarcerated women to train guide dogs. Most notably, it was the prison that housed Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Liberation Army and the Black Panthers, until her escape from prison in 1979. Within the last three years, seven former employees of the prison have been arrested and charged with crimes of sexual abuse and assault while employed at Edna Mahan. Two of the former officers, Brian Ambroise and Ronald Coleman, were indicted by a grand jury, on charges of misconduct and sexual assault.

Over the last year, five other staff members pled guilty to and were sentenced to prison/parole supervision for sexual misconduct and sexual assault of inmates at the prison. Jason Mayes was sentenced to 16 years in state prison, for sexual assault, sexual contact and official misconduct. He was also subjected to Megan’s Law, and will be under parole supervision for life.

Ahnwar Dixon pled guilty to three counts of second-degree official misconduct; Thomas Seguine and Joel Herscap pled guilty and were sentenced to prison for official misconduct. Joel Mercado, another former corrections officer, has also been indicted and is awaiting trial.

Sexual abuse by corrections officers in the prison have been documented for almost 25 years, beginning in 1994, when guard Kevin Brodie admitted to having a sexual relationship with an inmate and parolee at EMCF. Between 1997 and 1999, inmates Jacqueline Heggenmiller and Tammy Davis alleged that prison guard Stewart Sella raped and assaulted them over the two-year period, while Regina Dozier (a second guard to whom Davis confided the assaults) covered them up. Both were fired in 2000, after the allegations finally made it up the chain of command to then Director Dean Campbell. Sella was charged. The scale of abuse and rape at the prison has triggered an investigation by the Department of Justice and a State Senate Law and Public Safety Committee hearing.

Ironically, the 2016 audit of Edna Mahan performed in compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, gave the facility high marks, noting there were more than 90 cameras across the facility with no blind spots. Some minimum-security housing units contain no cameras at all, and footage is stored for only 30 days before it is erased. For example, Mayes was often the lone officer assigned to A Cottage, a minimum-security housing unit containing 40 inmates with no surveillance cameras.

Officials have been no help with the investigations or what they’re doing to stop inmates being sexually assaulted by the guards. Officials declined to attend a public hearing on conditions at the prison and refused to answer specific question from the media or release unredacted emails sought under the state’s records laws. Commissioner Gary Lanigan announced his retirement rather than answer “tough” questions about the prison.

Edna Mahan consists of nearly 368 African American Women (48%) incarceration, 96 (12%) Latina, and 301 (39%) white, as per the NJDOC’s offender statistics report. Minorities and people of color are overrepresented in the prison, and remain in danger of abuses by the prison guards. However, because they are incarcerated women, their victimization goes unnoticed and often uncared for. All voices of survivors should be heard and believed; their accusers should be brought to justice.

 

(Photo Credit 1: NJ.com) (Photo Credit 2: Custom Ink)

When you give little men power, they exploit the vulnerable

It has become an almost daily occurrence since Trump began his family separation policy last May: mothers and fathers taken away from their children, young boys and girls crying for their parents while border patrol chuckles in the background at the “orchestra;” the mystery of where young girls who were separated were being held and started the hashtag #wherearethegirls; and the horrific rampant abuse from Border Patrol Agents, both on the job and off. Between 2009 and 2014, the ACLU obtained documentation of nearly 30,000 pages of abuses by Border Patrol Agents.

Being called a “dog” or a “prostitute,” being beaten and threatened with rape, denied water and forced to stand naked in front of agents: these atrocities have happened to children, from the ages of 9 and 14. They come here scared, escaping violence and economic crisis. They are dehumanized and are considered contaminants in this country.

They are women and children. They are human beings.

A 4-year-old was sexually assaulted by a Texas policeman, who then threatened to have her undocumented mother deported to Guatemala if she reported him. A 6-year-old being abused sexually in detention was forced to sign a statement acknowledging that it was her responsibility to stay away from her abuser; she could only write the letter D to sign.


An employee in an Arizona facility housing migrant children was arrested for sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl. A Honduran woman identified as E.D, detained with her toddler, was sexually assaulted and was threatened with deportation if she reported her rapist. Recently, an ICE officer was apprehended and charged with murdering four women (all of whom were sex workers) and attempted murder of a fifth in Laredo, Texas. Less than 24 hours later, another officer was apprehended and charged with ten felony counts and one of incest in Medford, Oregon.

These trends are not indicative of a few bad apples that have seeped into the immigration system hellbent on doing harm. They are not ones that just slipped through the crack. These documents of abuse and murder, violence and degradation, are part of a larger culture of dehumanization of women and young children arrested and in detention. When people are not even considered people, when their humanity is stripped because of lies, of fear and of anger, then they become bodies that can be exploited by the scum and worst of this country; to be exploited by the little men.

When you ignore the truth and experiences of those fleeing violence in their home countries, believing migrants to being oxymoronically lazy and siphoning off government aid, and taking all our jobs, you remain complicit in the abuses that young children and migrants suffer after they are detained. You have wanted them to go away and now, not even considered human, you’ve doomed them to years of psychological trauma and fear. Would you wish that on your own children? On your sons? On your daughters? Would you wish that on a human being?

Is it easier to believe that those boys, girls, mothers and fathers fleeing economic injustice and violence are the root causes of America’s problems, over the idea that those wealthy elites in power have drained America’s once great resources and social safety nets through economic liberalization?

Open borders and the end of ICE does not bring crime and drugs and rapists. They are already in this country. And one of them sits in the highest office. It’s time to end the cruelty known as ICE.

 

(Photo Credit 1: Splinter / AP / Jeff Chiu) (Photo Credit 2: The Nation)

The US denying passports to people delivered by midwives is a modern-day witch hunt!

Twin brothers who were scheduled to prove that they were born in the United States. The twins were born with the assistance of a midwife in a border town. They now potentially face deportation.

It happened under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but it tapered off in 2009 after a lawsuit by the ACLU. Now, with Donald Trump in office, the number of Latinx citizens who have had their citizenship questioned and their passports revoked has reached hundreds, maybe even thousands. The reason? Being delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.

The crackdown began because of accused fraud in the 1950s, whereby midwives and some physicians along the Southern border listed U.S. births for babies born in Mexico. The use of midwives in the region was common, a tradition, because the cost of hospital care was too high. It is nearly impossible to ascertain which midwife-granted birth certificates are fraudulent and which are not.

Throughout the early to mid-20thcentury, borders between the two countries were open, and Mexican and American citizens would travel back and forth on a regular basis. Ironically, it was more difficult to obtain dual citizenship in Mexico if the child was born in the United States to Mexican parents, and if the child was first registered in the United States, the child’s U.S. citizenship was rarely questioned. Immigration law followed an “oldest public document” policy; the child’s oldest public document was considered the most reliable evidence of a child’s place of birth. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a push to close the U.S-Mexican border followed in the wake of the legalization program enacted under President Reagan.

As the push to make citizenship more difficult and closing the border started ramping up, the government started filing fraud charges against midwives in south Texas. Between 1960 and 2008, more than 75 midwives were convicted of signing birth certificates for children they did not deliver. Midwives would end up guessing which certification were given out fraudulently, leading to overly-inclusive lists of names. The parents of the children that were named were not given notice that they were named, and were not given the opportunity to challenge the inaccuracy of the lists. What’s even more alarming was the fact that 250 midwives were deemed “suspicious” with 175 charges being dropped. The U.S. Government never did explain how or why they were considered under suspicion, but egregiously claimed that 15,000 midwife forgeries exist in south Texas. The effect has raised suspicion toward citizens born through midwives in certain regions, a rising witch hunt against midwives and an attack on the children they delivered.

As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in June 2009, U.S. citizens who wished to exit or enter the United States were required to have a valid U.S. passport or passport card. The process caused problems for citizens born to midwives. The passport approval process became a convoluted ordeal, forcing the filing of carious legal actions. Problems occurred at a port of entry when a U.S. citizen’s passport reveals birth by midwife, especially if the midwife is on the government’s suspicious or convicted lists. Passport issues also arose in the cases of U.S. citizens who have never left the United States after their birth.

As part of a settlement from a class action lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights and legal organizations – including the ACLU, the ACLU of Texas, the international law firm Hogan & Hartson LLP, and Refugio del Rio Grande, Inc. – according to ACLU Racial Justice Program staff attorney Vanita Gupta, “Citizens will no longer be denied a passport solely because of their race, ancestry or because they happened to be born at home with a midwife.”

In 2017 alone, 971 people were denied passports. Those who have had their passports denied or revoked are in a state of limbo, their official birth certificate in doubt, and face possible detention and deportation. An attorney in Brownsville, Jamie Diez, said, “I’ve had probably 20 people who have been sent to the detention center—U.S. citizens.” Coupled with Trump’s crackdown on nonexistent “voter fraud” and campaigns for more restrictive voter identification laws in more conservative areas, especially Texas, those who have had their citizenship questioned may be barred from their legal right to vote.

According to immigrant attorney, Carlos Batara, “From a practical standpoint, the government actions are poorly reasoned…even in cases of seniors who may have been fraudulently registered as U.S. citizens at birth. On the other hand, if there was a fraud committed at the time of birth, they played no decision-making part. They did not commit the fraudulent act. Babies at birth are incapable of criminal intent. On the other hand, if their citizenship was fraudulently procured . . . To the extent they have lived an exemplary life, stayed out of trouble with the law, worked steadily and paid taxes, bought a home for their offspring, little, if any, public good is derived from stripping them of citizenship at such a late stage in their lives. Moreover, little, if any, positive benefit flows to the U.S. government from stripping their spouses and offspring, including grandchildren, of their citizenship . . . which was gained via the family patriarch’s presumed citizenship status. So what principles of legality or compassion, then, are served by challenging these seniors and turning their entire lives, and the lives of their families, upside down 50-60 years later? My view? Absolutely none.”

Why then are we so quick to launch a witch hunt against midwives and the children that they delivered?

 

(Photo Credit: Batara Immigration Law)

This Labor Day, support the country’s most militant workers: women and incarcerated workers

This Labor Day Weekend, while many observe the final holiday weekend that signifies the end of the summer, while politicians tweet out false message reveling in the American worker, and government and corporations systematically take away the rights of public/privatesector union workforces, women represent the largest group of low wage workers who have the most to lose from the Anti-Labor Movement; they will be serving your meals at restaurants, ringing you up at the registers for your family barbeque, and listening to your trivial complaints as you celebrate a holiday meant for them.

According to reports from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, of the 23.5 million Americans working low-wage jobs, 19 millionare women. Traditional so-called feminine jobs –  such as office and administration assistance, food preparation and serving, and beauty and personal services – are low-wage work, held mostly by women. A third of these women have children, and lack child care options and education. By 2024, one in six of all positions will be in “low-wage women’s work.”

The misconception that low wage work is only completed by teenagers hoping for some quick “movie money” is a complete falsehood. In the workforce sector that pays less than a living wage, 90% of the womenare over twenty years old. With union membership at only 6.5% for the private sector, women are feeling the brunt of the anti-union movement.

Despite the lack of strengththat union leaders feel confronting the current administration and its hostility to minorities, union members and their allies continue to use striking and picketing to make headway, as can be seen throughout the country.

In West Virginia, teacher’s strikes initially resulted in no significant gains while union leaders claimed victory. Teachers and supporters revolted, chanting “Go back to the bargaining table! We are the union bosses!” and continued striking for five more days to secure more concessions from the state. The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), ending the shutdown for teachers after only nine days, angered and frustrated teachers. Around 70 percentof workers and parents wanted to continue the shutdown. In the end, the teachers took revenge on state legislators who criticized the strike by voting a majorityof them out of office.

While the teachers’ strike was ongoing, 1,400 communications workers went on strike. Some of the country’s most exploitable humans, currently incarcerated individuals,have organized a strike to end the abuses of the prison industrial complex. The motivations and purpose of the demonstrations, according to organizers, is a ‘“[Call] to an end to modern day slavery,’ they’re highlighting the 13thAmendment, which otherwise banned slavery, ‘except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.’ Prisoners laboring for little or no wages is common practice, and those on strike are demanding an end to it, along with nine other demands, such as rescinding the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the restoration of the voting rights for incarcerated people and greater funding for rehabilitation services.”

This Labor Day, as we celebrate and possibly mourn the continued attacks on organized labor, we must also highlight the work of the country’s most vulnerable; women and those in prison. Against the rank and file leaders of the union, workers across the country are continuing the militant activism of the Labor Movement.

 

(Photo Credit 1: CNN) (Photo Credit 2: Chicago Sun-Times / AP / Jacquelyn Martin)